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A former employee reveals the broken promises and persuasive charms of for-profit colleges

Much ink has been spilled about the for-profit college industry in recent years, but Tressie McMillan Cottom brings a unique perspective to the topic.

A sociology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, she is keenly aware of the ways society and policymakers can influence Americans’ lives. But she’s also worked in admissions — or sales, as she describes it — at two for-profit colleges. In her new book, “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy,” Cottom weaves that experience with her own research and interviews to help explain how for-profit colleges became a force sucking up billions of government loan and grant dollars amid a $1.3 trillion student debt crisis.

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